FLOSSMOOR | Don Laketa's got emotional when he spoke to the School District 233 board about the penalties put on the girls basketball program at Homewood-Flossmoor by the state's high school athletics sanctioning body.
The former Vikings coach wanted to know what was being done about the IHSA's decision to ban the girls basketball team from the state tournament and forfeit its regular season wins for violating association by-laws.
"It's a mark on the school that won't go away," Laketa said. "I was just hurt by what happened to the school because H-F is one of the best schools, not only in Illinois but in the country."
Homewood-Flossmoor's girls basketball team, which was ranked No. 1 in Class 4A in Illinois, was suspended last months from the state playoffs and required by the IHSA to forfeit its regular-season wins. The agency found H-F in violation of bylaws regarding athletic season limitations and open gym limitations, according to an IHSA release.
Laketa coached basketball at H-F for 17 years, compiling a 317-137 record, before resigning in 1989. His 1985 Vikings squad finished third in Class 2A.
"A gentleman came up to me and made the remark 'Is that how you won, Coach? By recruiting?'" Laketa said. "I never recruited a kid. Kids that lived in the community, they came in and played basketball. That's the way it should be."
Laketa said he thought it was mistake for the girls basketball team to take some of the long road trips it did during the 2013-14 season. The Vikings played games in Tennessee, Maryland, California, New York, Colorado and Ohio.
"His first year here, and he's taking them all over the country? That wasn't right," Laketa said. "When I coached, the only trip we went on was a Christmas tournament in Centralia and if you ever saw that hotel you'd wonder why we stayed there."
Board President Richard Lites told Laketa he respected his opinion and said he'd love to discuss the current state of high school basketball culture, but was restricted in what he could say about the situation with the girls basketball team because of a pending lawsuit.
"After this lawsuit, which was continued until April, after that has been adjudicated, obviously a lot will come out," Lites said. "So many conversations occur without all of the facts and so many conclusions are drawn without all of the facts. You know as well as I and everyone in this room that there are always two sides to a story."
Lites said he didn't want the school reflected in a negative light, but he would stop short of apologizing.
"I think that as time moves on, there will be more information that comes out," Lites said. "Maybe it's not the black mark on us. It might be something that we would rather not have happened, but I think once it does come out the focus will be more on the 14 to 18 year olds who paid a terrible price for things that should have been left for adults."
Lites and Superintendent Von Mansfield said they weren't able to comment further because of pending litigation.